Ode to the Carhartt

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I saw a guy yesterday walking into Smithís with a crumpled wide-brimmed hat on and a jacket with what looked liked dried mud all over it. I canít say for sure it was mud ó it was whitish stuff, maybe asbestos, or plaster.

The coat was battered and creased and lived in. In other words, it was just about perfect for a Carhartt.

Iíve spent thousands of dollars on jackets over the years, those with fancy fabrics or insulative properties that are supposed to be the best in the world.

Iíve also spent less than $200 on Carhartts. The last one I bought was on sale at Murdochís years ago and I snatched it up for 50 bucks. I wore the one before that until the pockets completely wore out and the elbows had no fabric.

The ďnewĒ one, which is at least 6 years old, has a hood and quilted lining. The cuffs are beginning to fray and thereís oil stains and dirt all over it. I suppose I could wash it, but then again, itís not like Iím going to wear it to church, and the smell of motor oil and manure has its own charms.

It is not waterproof or particularly warm or lightweight ó sure, I can put an extra layer or two under it, but when the rubber meets the road in December, I usually hang it up until spring.

Itís the perfect coat for the 50-degree day with a raw wind when busting through a thicket of hawthorn bushes. You just put your head down and bull through it. The coat more than takes the punishment, seems to enjoy it, really.

Itís also very quiet. Gore-tex is a great fabric, but itís noisy. The canvas cotton of the Carhartt is not. It also has an inside pocket thatís actually useful, which is to say stuff doesnít fall out of it all the time. Mine has about four pens and a crumpled notebook inside most of the time and if I canít find my wallet, chances are Iíve stuffed it somewhere inside that coat.

Having said all that, I suppose I should buy a new one. It takes awhile to break a Carhartt in and get to know it, years, really. Like a fine wine, itís the work coat that gets better with age.

Chris Peterson is the editor of the Hungry Horse News.

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